Fidelis Mmilili Molao of the BDP comfortably defeated the joint opposition candidate, Dr Habaudi Njiro Hobona of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Mbayani Phalalo of the Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin (MELS). The former Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) executive director garnered an impressive 4,575 votes, while Hobona got 2,617. Phalalo was third with a paltry 62 votes - even the 140 spoilt ballots exceeded his tally.
Although touted as one constituency with a high number of illiterate voters, this time around, the number of rejected votes has gone down compared to the 2009 general elections figure of 162. But a challenge still remains for the stakeholders to educate the masses to ensure the rejected votes are reduced drastically or eliminated altogether.
The moment of truth came once the Tutume District Officer, Enock Zibani, officially declared Molao the winner. Thousands of BDP diehards, clad in the party colours at the Chamabona Junior Secondary School Hall, broke into loud shouts of their party slogan - Tsholetsa! They sang and danced in appreciation of the win because it was not an easy fight despite the margin. The song: "...Diphathi di a lwana, di batla go busa...Tsothle di tla buswa ke Domi..." became an instant hit. The song presents BDP as destined to rule the country forever while the opposition parties continue to push and jostle for power.
The weekend by-election came as a result of the demise of the former area MP and cabinet minister, Baledzi Gaolathe in May. The by-election saw 7,394 voters trooping to the booths compared to 9,047 in the general elections. From the moment the polling stations were opened, people came in large numbers to vote.
Thousands of party enthusiasts thronged the counting centre despite the fact that the by-election was one of the longest, running from 6am last Saturday to 10am yesterday. Normally, by-elections for a parliamentary seat do not run for a long time since there will be no ward elections.
On behalf of his party and the loser Hobona, BCP director of elections, Stephen Makhura, accepted the results.
"The results reflects the will of the people of Tonota North and the rest of the issues, we shall deal with them at the appropriate time," he said yesterday morning.
Phalalo of MELS appreciated the conduct of the elections and in particular, he was elated that there were no disruptions. "Although I have lost, it does not really mean the end of the struggle. I take this moment to thank all the stakeholders for a job well-done," said Phalalo.
Molao said his job started the moment he was declared the winner.
"Although the BDP started its campaigns a bit late, I would like to thank all of you for having put up a brave fight to retain the seat. I am ready to deliver for this area and in particular, I would ensure that the jobless youth benefit from the various economic programmes that this country has," he promised.
He asserted that the BDP has proved that it can beat a united opposition. His opponent Hobona was backed by the four main opposition parties, the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) and BCP.